Uto Princess Daruma


Princess Daruma from Uto / 宇土の姫達磨

This Princess Daruma from Uto, Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu is closely related to the one from Takeda, so please refer to her story too.
. Princess Daruma from Takeda
竹田の姫達磨 .

This Princess Daruma is also called
"The little Roly-Poly Daruma" (Okina Koboshi) in the local dialect. She belongs to the group of papermachee dolls of Uto (called: Udo Hariko), which we will see later. The production started in the time of the third Tokugawa Shogun and has lately been made by an old lady, Mrs. Sakamoto Katsu, until she was almost 80 years old. She also made figures of the gods or warriors on horse, small horses and masks, sumo wrestlers and people in rikshaws reminding us of the Taisho Period. Her Hime Daruma comes in three sizes, but Mrs. Sakamoto produced only about 20 pieces a year, so they are hard to get. She died in 1981 and the production seemed to die with her. Lately her eldest son got in retirement and is now trying to resurrect this tradition. You can contact him at
Uto-shi, Honchoo 84 TEL:0964-22-0457

This Princess is made in rememberance of the famous Emperess Jinguu Koogoo 神功皇后, Jingu Kogo, who passed through this area on her trip to Korea, as we will see in her story a little later.

The Uto Princess Daruma has long slender eyes and eyebrows like a new moon. Her face is really pretty. It is sourrounded by one thick black circle and on the head there are many stripes of gold. The three lines under her chin let you imagine an ancient court dress of 12 layers (juuni hitoe). On her stomach she has a blue pattern that looks almost like a dragonfly with blue wings, which is a rendering of the auspicious pine, bamboo and plum blossom motive.
Like the Lady Daruma from Takeda on her white back side there is a painting of a male symbol.

神功皇后にちなんで創った張子だるまです。 切れ目の長い眼、三日月形の眉を描いた美しい顔に襟元に十二巣衣を重ねたように描かれている。竹田の女達磨と同じ様に背面 には男根様の文様が描かれている。坂本カツが創ったものですが昭和56年に死亡したため後継者がなくいまは創られていませんでしたが最近長男の光勝が製作をはじめました。
坂本光勝 宇土市本町 84 TEL:0964-22-0457

source : t-matusita

. Jingu Kogo 神功皇后 and Japanese Dolls .


Let us take a short excursion into the old Japanese history and legends. Jinguu Koogoo is one of my favorite Japanese Lady Politicians.

Regent-Empress Jinguu Koogoo  神功皇后
AD 170 - 269, Regent from 201 - 269

She was the wife of the 14th Emperor, Chuuai who reigned from 192 - 200. According to the Nihonshoki, after the death of her husband, she crossed over the sea to conquer three Korean Kingdoms, Koguryo, Paekche and Silla while pregnant with the future Emperor, Oojin. After her return to Japan she gave birth (after many years of legendary pregnancy) and returned back to Yamato with the baby Oojin to punish those who didn't accept him and reigned in his name. Nihonshoki also says that Himiko should be another name of Jinguu but many historians don't agree with this thesis.

Legend has it she had a pair of divine jewels that allowed her to control the tides when she began her bloodless conquest of Korea. Her son is also known as Hachiman, later being subject to the Hachiman belief originating in Usa, where the main shrine of the present Hachiman Cult is located.

Jinguu Koogoo is venerated as a Godess for Easy Childbirth and Warfare at Sea.
(Alternative words: Empress Jingukogo, Jingu Kogo, Jingu-kogo, Okinagatarashi-hime.)

The Great Hachiman Shrine in Usa  宇佐神宮
This is the head shrine of more than 40,000 Hachiman shrines throughout the country. It is one of the three most revered shrines in all of Japan. (The other two main shrines are Izumo and Ise).
Built in the Edo period this huge shrine is a national treasure.

. Hachiman Shrines in Japan .


During the famous Gion Festival in Kyoto
there are two floats in honor of this empress.
Ship's Float  船鉾 Fune Boko
This float is built in the shape of the ancient ship. According to the Japanese tale, this ship was used for carrying the Japanese empress "Jinguu Koogoo" who is still worshipped among the women as the Goddess of safe delivery. This float is also very popular for its unique style and gorgeous carvings, which are put around all over the body of the float.

The main figures in the float are Empress Jinguu Koogoo and
"Ryuujin", the God of the Sea.

Divination Float  Urade Boko
"Urade" means divination in Japanese. According to the Japanese tale, this float depicts the story of Empress Jinguu Koogoo, the Goddess of safe delivery who goes fishing to divine her luck by the amount of fish, which she catches.
The figure of Empress Jinguu Koogoo on this float holds a fishing line in her left hand and a fishing pole in her right hand.

. WKD : Gion Festival (Gion matsuri)


Ein Königreich für ein Pferd...
Pferde und Reitkunst im alten Japan

Checking about Jinguu Koogoo I found an interesting German essay about the use of horses in Japan. One of the first use of horses may have been at the time of her battle against Korea, either bringing horses from Japan or getting horses in Korea to move her large army. Since Mrs. Sakamoto also made horses of papermachee, I recommend this for my German readers.

source : TENSHU/bajutsu.


Hime Daruma 姫だるま
Princess Daruma, Introduction.


Uto hariko 宇土張り子
papermachee dolls from Uto

The maker, Sakamoto Katsu 坂本カツ, died in 1981 and since then they have not been made again.
There are about 30 different motives of the dolls, many with a nostalgic touch of the Meiji and Taisho period.

One of her best motives was the five anesama dolls 五人姉様

- - - - - Origin
Around 1839, the wife of Sakamoto Katsuji, Saki 坂本勝治が妻のサキ began making them. When Katsuji died at age 75, KATSU was only 19 years old, but already a veteran at making papermachee dolls. But after WW II, life became difficult for her since they lost all the molds during the war. Local people helped restoring the shop.

Later her grandchild Kooshoo 光勝 Kosho, a school headmaster, helped making the dolls after his retirement, but he died at age 55. His wife Kimiko 紀美子 is trying to do her best now.

Adress of Sakamoto Kimiko :

- source : www.asahi-net.or.jp/~SA9S-HND

CLICK for more photos !


. Folk Toys from Kumamoto .



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